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Orphan Train and A Walk Across America: Comparison and Contrast

Orphan Train and A Walk Across America: Comparison and Contrast

The fiction work, Orphan Train, highlights the story of Vivian Daly, an orphan who is on a journey to find a family that would take her in and a future. She is initially accommodated by Molly Ayer with whom they develop a significant connection. Vivian faces numerous tribulations in the course of her life as she tries to earn a living and make ends meet. In the course of her journey in the orphan train, she meets Dutchy, and they get married and have a daughter, Sarah Dunnel. However, the passing away of her husband means she has to put the daughter up for an adoption. Fortunately, they are reunited at the end through the Internet. The non-fictional story chosen is A Walk Across America, and it tells about Peter Jenkins’ decision to travel around the country and get a clear understanding of America. He decides to embark on the journey and makes stop-overs to work in different places so he can earn money to sustain himself. While travelling, he comes across new people, loses a friend, and undergoes a transformation in his faith. Actually, Christina Baker Kline’s Orphan Train and Peter Jenkins’ A Walk Across America demonstrate the view that the American Dream is a long journey with hurdles that only need determination and resilience to overcome. Nevertheless, not everyone has the opportunity to achieve it because it is basically anchored on luck in most situations.


The most significant similarity between the experiences of the dreamers in both texts and my personal experience is the hope for a perfect future in the course of the journey toward the American Dream. Vivian Daly, the heroine in Orphan Train is determined to find a family to take her in as she has lost hers in a fire. She does not give up on the journey despite the tough conditions such as being treated cruelly by Mrs. Bryne. In the illustration of this hope, Kline captures Daly’s assertion, “I learned long ago that loss is not only probable, but inevitable. I know what it means to lose everything, to let go of one life and find another…” (Kline 23). This means that she is committed to start a new life despite the loss she faced in the past. There is still a belief in a brighter future.

In the similar sense, Jenkins, the dreamer in A Walk Across America, hopes for perfection and an amazing journey as he looks forward to understanding the true nature of America. He sets out on his trip with the hope that the future would be as welcoming as possible. He faces different obstacles, but is still determined to do the best and deepen his knowledge of the country. At the start of the journey, Jenkins states, “I’m walking across America. I started in the upper New York State in October and I’m heading down through the Deep South and then on over to the West Coast” (Jenkins 2). This is illustrative of his commitment to embark on a trip that would have a bright end and, maybe, the future. This basically relates to my personal experience as a student. I take education as my journey toward the future and the subsequent attainment of the American Dream. My success and achievement of this aim would probably come from my consistent pursuit of academics and the realization of the target set forward for me. Despite the many hurdles, I am as determined as the dreamers in both books to get to the ultimate goal of success.

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On the other hand, my experience differs from that of the dreamers in both books because their perception of the American Dream seems to be based on finding some form of accommodation and love from the people they meet along their journey. For instance, Daly loses everything, but the only thing she is determined to get is a family to take her in. In her initial stages of life, after the loss, she feels that it would be an achievement to just meet people who care and provide for needs in the best ways possible. Kline confirms her aspiration with the assertion, “People who matter in our lives stay with us, haunting our most ordinary moment. They’re with us in the grocery store, as we turn a corner, chat with a friend. They rise up through the pavement, we absorb them through our souls” (Kline 64). This is reflective of what the heroine really needs in her life to feel complete in the enjoyment of her American Dream. She is basically focused on people who matter to her.

Jenkins also seems to be driven by the people that are ready to be there for him in the course of his journey as he discovers America. For instance, the book says, “It happened again, I met another American whose generosity, it began to seem to me, gushed out of the spirit of this land” (Jenkins 86). This statement also indicates his enjoyment of the American Dream by simply meeting generosity.

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Both of these ideas differ from my own perception of the American Dream. I personally feel it is not primarily about the people one meets, but about what an individual person achieves. For example, from my experience, it is all about setting up a place like a successful business and reaping a desirable level of profits in the country.

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In conclusion, my perception of the American Dream has changed drastically as I feel it is about a journey. It does not come without tribulations and sufferings in a person’s life. However, this only goes a long way into strengthening individuals. The most unfortunate thing is that the American Dream will remain elusive to many people because of the lack of perseverance and resilience. Both stories play a significant role in highlighting what exactly needs to be done to attain this dream in the most appropriate way through the dreamers’ journeys.